In very dry climates, evaporative coolers, sometimes referred to as swamp coolers or desert coolers, are popular for improving coolness during hot weather. An evaporative cooler is a device that draws outside air through a wet pad, such as a large sponge soaked with water. The sensible heat of the incoming air, as measured by a dry bulb thermometer, is reduced. The temperature of the incoming air is reduced, but it is also more humid, so the total heat (sensible heat plus latent heat) is unchanged. Some of the sensible heat of the entering air is converted to latent heat by the evaporation of water in the wet cooler pads. If the entering air is dry enough, the results can be quite substantial.
In 1758, Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley, a chemistry professor at Cambridge University, conducted an experiment to explore the principle of evaporation as a means to rapidly cool an object. Franklin and Hadley confirmed that evaporation of highly volatile liquids (such as alcohol and ether) could be used to drive down the temperature of an object past the freezing point of water. They conducted their experiment with the bulb of a mercury thermometer as their object and with a bellows used to speed up the evaporation. They lowered the temperature of the thermometer bulb down to −14 °C (7 °F) while the ambient temperature was 18 °C (64 °F). Franklin noted that, soon after they passed the freezing point of water 0 °C (32 °F), a thin film of ice formed on the surface of the thermometer's bulb and that the ice mass was about 6 mm (1⁄4 in) thick when they stopped the experiment upon reaching −14 °C (7 °F). Franklin concluded: "From this experiment one may see the possibility of freezing a man to death on a warm summer's day."
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